Water crisis out west solicits water restrictions, but need more

Per an article presented on CBS News called “US West hit with water cuts but rebuffs call for deeper ones,” the federal government stepped in when seven states out west could not come to an agreement, as their water sources dwindle to less than 1/2, closer to 1/3 of their previous supply. The article can be linked to below, but here are a few key paragraphs:

“For the second year in a row, Arizona and Nevada will face cuts in the amount of water they can draw from the Colorado River as the West endures more drought, federal officials announced Tuesday.

The cuts planned for next year will force states to make critical decisions about where to reduce consumption and whether to prioritize growing cities or agricultural areas. Mexico will also face cuts.

But those reductions represent just a fraction of the potential pain to come for the 40 million Americans in seven states that rely on the river. Because the states failed to respond to a federal ultimatum to figure out how to cut their water use by at least 15%, they could face even deeper cuts that the government has said are needed to prevent reservoirs from falling so low they cannot be pumped.

‘The states collectively have not identified and adopted specific actions of sufficient magnitude that would stabilize the system,’ Bureau of Reclamation Commissioner Camille Touton said.

Together, the missed deadline and cuts place officials responsible for providing water to growing cities and farms under renewed pressure to plan for a hotter, drier future and a growing population.

Touton has said the additional 15% reduction is necessary to ensure that water deliveries and hydroelectric power are not disrupted. She was noncommittal on Tuesday about whether she planned to impose those cuts unilaterally if the states cannot reach agreement.”

The world has been facing a global water crisis for some time now. A couple of years ago, Cape Town, South Africa had a countdown to no water, which they staved off. And, Saudi Arabia, an oil rich country, is water poor, so the regime said Muslims could pray with sand instead of water. In the US, we are seeing pockets of water shortage with the western part of the country seeing the worst trouble. The shortage is exacerbated as seven states have competed for and cannot come to an agreement on how to reduce water supply.

In short, these states better get their act together. Climate change has only made the water crisis worse. Duke Energy wrote a report that projected on top of normal water loss when creating power due to steam dissipation that is not reconverted to water after the power is generated and evaporation from water reservoirs, they would lose an additional 11% of water due to climate change. This is an additional reason we need to move aggressively to sources of energy that do not require fresh water such as wind, tidal and photovoltaic solar energy. *

And, our industries, government and water users must alter our practices before it is too late. This relates to the type of plants that are used which need to be endemic to an area, to fewer golf courses, to less lawn watering, to less fracking for natural gas which uses an abundance of water, to less usage by people. People must do the part, but in a survey this week, many felt they could not make a difference. That is selfish and short-sighted. They better make a difference or they will need to have water shipped in or move.

In Miriam Horn’s book “Rancher, Farmer, Fisherman,” she notes a farmer said we need to grow crops that grow naturally to an area. They require far less water that way. The farm to table restaurants are nice in principle, but in certain places growing water intensive crops is less utile. These are the kinds of things we need to think about.

It really comes down to the following; water, air and food. We must nurture and protect these resources. And, when a fossil fuel company raises a stink, remind them of what Steven Solomon said in his book “Water: The Epic Struggle for Wealth, Power, and Civilization.” He coined the phrase “water is the new oil.” I first heard this phrase uttered by the CEO of Duke Energy at the time, before I read Solomon’s must read book. Now, why would a CEO say that?

*There are some solar installations that heat water to steam to turn turbines and generate power, but most solar installations use photovoltaic solar panels that harness the sun’s energy.



20 thoughts on “Water crisis out west solicits water restrictions, but need more

  1. A timely post Keith. Aside from the horrendous fires several parts of Europe are suffering drought, with major rivers reduced to streams (Italy being a case in point). In the UK rain fall has been at best one-quarter down this year, though figures are variable depending on region and period of measurement. The SE of England, arguably one of the most populous areas is having drought restrictions imposed in a few counties (big areas on a UK scale).
    And all this is as nothing in comparison to events in the Horn of Africa.

    • Roger, thanks for sharing these stories and the link. I was aware of Italy’s woes, but not England’s. Africa has heightened issues as well. In Miriam Horn’s book “Rancher, Farmer, Fisherman,” the farmer has better luck with Republican legislatures when he speaks in terms of the water crisis, moreso than when he uses climate change as the lead. Nonetheless, actions are still too slow to remedy these issues. We must get moving. Keith

      • Indeed Keith.
        The vast complexities of the planet which manufacture the weather systems will not give us time, much less listen to outbursts of denial or apathy from others.

      • Roger, apathy must be set aside. Here we lost twelve years of climate change intervention thanks to Bush and Trump. We cannot wait any longer for demonstrative action. Keith

  2. Switzerland produces a high percentage of electricity through water. But due to the many heat waves and compared little rain this summer, rivers have run low, and also lakes have shrunk. It is scary.

      • That is the big problem. Due to the expected energy crises, Germany and Austria think about going back to brown coal which again throws the climate efforts on the ground.

      • Erika, coal is more than one step backward. It is now more costly to produce than renewables and that does not include the environmental degradation, transport and litigation cost. Keith

  3. Very thoughtful and thought-provoking post, my friend. I think how people are howling about the price of gasoline … and I wonder if they might put things in perspective when the day comes that they only have water flowing for, say, two hours per day, or are limited to 30 gallons per day? We are so used to running the water for a minute or two to get the taste of chemicals out of it, or staying in the shower an extra few minutes just because it feels good, or running the dishwasher only half-full. Just as with electricity, there are so many ways we could cut back, but we aren’t likely to do it until one day we find that there is no choice.

    • Jill, thanks. We must find our ways to cut back. But, if we do not get federal, state, local and industry change, it won’t be enough. Yet, we need both people and institutions to act. Keith

      • You’re right … as individuals, we can make a difference, but not enough if we don’t have the support of government and industry. Too much money changes hands to maintain the status quo, which is against our best interests, against the interests of the future.

  4. Note to Readers: A major set of changes could occur with offshore wind and tidal energy and increased onshore wind and solar energy. But, we need to incorporate improved battery storage and infrastructure lines to harness and distribute the electricity. This will save on water as well. But if we move to use endemic plants and cut back on lawn watering, especially for golf courses, that will help.

  5. Nothing better exemplifies the failure of government than this “crisis”, a crisis that didn’y just pop up. Drought comes with the territory out here, and climate change and population growth didn’t begin yesterday. Action was proposed decades ago. Capturing runoff and recycling waste water would help a lot even at this late date. It’s a disgrace.

    • Bumba, too true on call counts. When I heard seven states had to figure this out together that told me it would fail. Planning ahead is not a strength of many, but especially when you have too many cooks in the kitchen. Keith

    • Janis, it is human nature. I also believe politicians get little credit for avoiding a problem and would rather let it become one, then do something. In this case, they are very late to the party in terms of resolution. Keith

  6. Humanity is in denial. We are spoiled. We don’t want to face discomfort. We bury our heads in the parched earth and fan our buttocks for a perfect tan. There’s nothing surprising here. The water shortages, like climate change, have been on the horizon since I was in high school. That’s a long time ago.

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